With a three-game win streak to open its region schedule, the Hardeeville High School football team was hopeful it had made the jump to a Region 5-A title contender.
In nine minutes Friday night, however, Bamberg-Ehrhardt reminded the Hurricanes that they aren't quite there just yet.
A marquee matchup at Hurricane Stadium between a pair of unbeatens in Region 5-A quickly turned the Red Raiders' way. Bamberg-Ehrhardt used two first-quarter touchdowns to roll past Hardeeville, 28-12, and hand the Hurricanes their first region loss of the season. Bamberg-Ehrhardt moved to 7-0.
"They hit us in the mouth the first two quarters," Hurricanes running back Jarrell Knighton said. "We tried to bounce back in the last two, but it didn't happen."
The Red Raiders jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first nine minutes, using a powerful yet slick running game to control the clock and keep the chains moving. University of Illinois-bound Demetrius Williams scored on a 2-yard run on the game's opening drive. He ran for 131 yards in the game.
The Red Raiders mixed in their first pass on their next drive, and Randon Sandifer found Carl Anthony Williams on a fly pattern for a 57-yard touchdown. The duo hooked up for a 53-yard score in the fourth quarter.
Sandifer used his legs for a third score -- a 2-yard touchdown in the second quarter to put the Hurricanes in a 21-0 hole.
"The start was definitely not what we were looking for," Hurricanes coach Blake Raley said. "You can't give a team a start like that, especially a team of that caliber."
While Bamberg-Ehrhardt's running game topped 100 yards in the opening half, Hardeeville struggled to get its going. Leading rusher Jarrell Knighton was held to 17 yards on five carries in the first half. As a team, the Hurricanes had only seven total yards in the half.
Knighton gained traction in the second half, carrying 13 times for 59 yards and a touchdown with 7:36 remaining in the fourth quarter, but Hardeeville's lack of quick-strike capability on offense kept it from mounting any comeback.
After scoring at least four touchdowns in each of their previous four games, the Hurricanes' offense accounted for just one Friday night. It rushed for 146 yards on 45 attempts.
Charlie Morrison-Ford provided the other touchdown with an 86-yard kickoff return.
"It's real difficult for us to play from behind," Knighton said. "We're a running team. And the running game didn't start. They stacked the side we usually run to. We ran it to the other side and it worked, but it was too late."
Hardeeville's ability to bounce back will face a difficult test. The Hurricanes (3-4, 3-1 Region 5-A) will travel to Allendale-Fairfax next week in a game that could go a long way in determining playoff destinations.
"We'll be ready to go," Raley said. "This region isn't going to be lost in Week 7. There's a lot of football left to be played."